Unification News for
Universal Ballet Comes of Age-Tour of United States Planned
by Anne Inoue-Seoul, Korea
The ballet company which appeared in a quiet rehearsal room on the third floor of the Little Angels School in the spring and summer months of 1984 in Seoul has been advancing with every passing season. Now, in its 14th season, Universal Ballet has grown into a strong troupe of 52 well-trained dancers. Under the direction of artistic director Bruce Steivel and prima ballerina Julia H. Moon, the company now offers about 80 performances a year, including regulars seasons in Seoul, overseas tours, and performances in other Korean cities. Mr. Steivel became the artistic director of Universal Ballet in 1995, after working as the director of the Hong Kong Ballet. He had earlier danced with ballet companies in the US, Canada and Europe, and worked on the artistic staff of several companies in Europe.
Julia Moon studied ballet in her native Washington, DC before traveling to Korea to attend the Little Angels School, where she learned Korean folk dance; she then traveled to many countries to perform as a member of the Little Angels. She picked up her ballet studies a few years later in Korea when ballet was added to the curriculum of the school, and continued studying ballet at the Royal Ballet School in London and LAcademie de Danse Classique de Princess Grace in Monaco.
Her career as a dancer began in the United States at the Ohio Ballet, followed by the Washington Ballet. When Universal Ballet was founded in 1984, she returned once again to Korea, where she became one of the companys founding members. During her years as a principal dancer with Universal Ballet, she has traveled to many cities around the world, including St. Petersburg, Russia and Bucharest, Romania to perform as a guest dancer, performing the lead roles in Giselle, Swan Lake and other works.
Universal Ballets performance scheduled for March 13 of this year at the Luckman Fine Arts Center in Los Angeles marks the companys US premiere, and opens a seven-week tour which will take the company to 12 North American cities. Since its first tour to Southeast Asia in 1985, Universal Ballet has done ten tours of Japan, Italy, Austria and Taiwan. For this first North American tour, the company will present two full-length ballets, Swan Lake and Shim Chung.
Universal Ballet was founded by Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon in 1984, and from its early years until the present, the companys featured principal dancer has been Julia Moon, who more recently also took on the responsibility of serving as General Director in addition to her dancing. In its early years, the company was under the direction of Adrienne Dellas, who had been teaching ballet at Sun Hwa Arts School (formerly the Little Angels School) for several years prior to the companys appearance, training a corps of students who became the founding members and the core of the company. Assisted by fellow Sun Hwa ballet teachers Francis Drayton and Judy Breen, Ms. Dellas directed the companys first performance, Cinderella, which was presented at the Little Angels Performing Arts Center in July 1984, and later she returned to her native United States, where she is now teaching on the faculty of the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. In addition to Julia Moon, principal dancers Jae-Hong Park and Sun-Hee Park and soloists Sook-Kyung Jeon and Yoo-Mi Lee are still remaining in the company from that beginning core.
Since the first season in 1984, the company has added many other works to its repertory, both full-length story ballets and one-act works. Focusing its attention during its early years on the well-known classic masterpieces of ballet, the company has performed Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, La Fille Mal Gardee, La Sylphide, Coppelia, The Nutcracker, and others. Beginning in 1986, and continuing through several revisions until the current version was completed in 1988 for the Seoul Olympics Arts Festival, the ballet Shim Chung-The Blindmans Daughter, based on a favorite Korean folk tale, was created especially for Universal Ballet, with choreography by Adrienne Dellas, and new music by American composer Kevin Pickard which was commissioned for the project. Shim Chung and The Nutcracker, which has become a holiday classic in Seoul, as it is in so many cities around the U.S., have been joined by Swan Lake, unquestionably the best-known ballet in the world, as the companys three most often performed ballets.
The ballet Shim Chung is based on an old folk tale which is as well known in Korea as the story of Cinderella is in the United States. The story tells of a young girl, Shim Chung, whose mother dies soon after she is born. Her blind father raises her alone, surviving by begging for food from the local villagers. Learning that an offering of three hundred bags of rice to the local temple will restore her fathers sight, Shim Chung contracts herself to the captain of a sea-going ship as a sacrifice, to be thrown into the raging sea in a storm, in order to protect the ship from the anger of the Sea Dragon King. Receiving the money from the ship captain, she gives it to the monk at the temple, and leaves her sobbing father to accompany the sailors back to their ship.
A storm arises, and at the peak of the oceans rages, she prays and jumps overboard. Immediately, the sea is calmed. Although she is received with great ceremony by the Sea Dragon King, Shim Chung is concerned when she discovers that her fathers sight has not been restored, and begs to return to the surface to find out what went wrong. In the final act, she is finally reunited with her father after a long search, and in his joy at seeing her alive, his sight is finally restored. The choreography used by Adrienne Dellas in transforming this folk story into a ballet, in combination with Kevin Pickards music, have produced a wonderful evening of ballet, which has moved audience members to tears both in its native Korea and in all the other countries where the company has performed it on tour.
Swan Lake has become classic fare for every major ballet company since it was first choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1894 at the Maryinski Theater in St. Petersburg. Along with Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, it is one of the three great ballet works that have survived from the collaboration between Petipa and Tchaikovsky which have taken their place in history as the best known ballet music in the world today. The choreography in Universal Ballets version follows the original very closely, with some additions and adaptations made by Oleg Vinogradov, who has been the artistic director of the Kirov Ballet, the resident company at the Maryinski Theater where Swan Lake was first performed, for over twenty years. The sets and costumes for UBCs production, although constructed in Seoul, were designed by designers from the Kirov, Simon Pastukh and Gallina Solovieva.
Swan Lake tells the tale of a young maiden, Odette, who has been turned into a swan by the magician Baron von Rothbart. She is discovered, along with her swan maidens, by the young Prince Siegfried, who falls in love with her. Returning to the palace from the lake, Siegfrieds eye is again caught by the daughter of von Rothbart, and he pledges his love to her, too. Suddenly, remembering Odette, Siegfried runs back to the lake, where he and Odette over their time together, until they are interrupted by the reappearance of von Rothbart. They struggle with him, finally killing him and breaking the spell.
In addition to the classical story ballets, the companys repertory also includes a number of more contemporary ballets including George Balanchines Serenade, La Sonnambula, Who Cares?; A Handel Celebration by Vicente Nebrada; In the Glow of the Night by Choo San Goh, the most successful Asian ballet choreographer; Wedding Party, Pulcinella and several other works by Roy Tobias, who served as the artistic director from 1987 until 1995.
Universal Ballet is comprised primarily of Korean dancers, trained in the best ballet schools in Korea; it includes graduates from the Sun Hwa Arts School ballet department, graduates from many of the more than 20 colleges and universities in Korea which offer a major in ballet, and Korean dancers who studied ballet abroad before returning to Korea to join the company. In addition to the Korean dancers, the company currently has dancers from Italy, Japan, Taiwan, China, Romania, the United States, Mexico and New Zealand. In the past few years, five graduates of the Kirov Ballet Academy in Washington DC have joined the company, including principal dancer Yena Kang, a native of Korea, and soloist Dragos Mihalcea, from Romania.
The artistic staff of Universal Ballet and the two ballet schools in Korea which are affiliated with the company-Sun Hwa Arts Schools ballet department and the Universal Ballet Academy, located nearby-also include a combination of international and Korean talent. Former UBC principal dancer Min-Hwa Choi serves as the director of the Universal Ballet Academy, while another former dancer from the company, Mi-Na Kim, is now one of the UBCs ballet mistresses, along with Galina Kekisheva, a former soloist with the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg. Belgian ballet master Daniel Job and Korean pianists Jung-Min Ryu and Eun-Kyung Oh round out the artistic staff.
The companys preparations for the tour are currently under way in new rehearsal facilities built adjacent to the Little Angels Performing Arts Center and dedicated in May 1995. Everything from rehearsal tapes to sets, costumes, props, toe shoes, orchestra parts and scores, and of course every step of the dancing, is being readied for the trip. A pair of 40-foot ocean freight containers will carry the hundreds of costumes, ballet barres, special dance flooring, Korean houses, grand chandeliers, candelabras, work boxes and special effects equipment needed to produce the two full-length ballets which the company will perform on the U.S. tour-Shim Chung and Swan Lake-when they leave the port of Pusan in early February for their month-long journey to the port of Long Beach, while the dancers and musicians remain behind to continue rehearsing the ballets until every step and every phrasing is perfect.
Everyone, ballet fans and newcomers alike, is sure to enjoy an evening at the theater with Universal Ballet in Swan Lake or Shim Chung. Keep your eyes open for news of our performances and bring along your friends.
Universal Ballet 1998 North American Tour
List of Performance Dates and Theaters
March 13-15 Los Angeles, California Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA
March 17 Spokane, Washington Spokane Opera House
March 19 Victoria, British Columbia Royal Theater
March 21-22 Riverside, California Memorial Auditorium
March 24 St. George, Utah Cox Auditorium, Dixie College
March 27 Lake Charles, Louisiana Civic Center
March 28 Shreveport, Louisiana Strand Theatre
April 3-4 Raleigh, North Carolina Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
April 10-11 Fairfax, Virginia Concert Hall, George Mason University
April 14-19 New York City City Center
April 25-26 Norfolk, Virginia Chrysler Hall
April 28 Las Vegas, Nevada Las Vegas Academy of International Studies
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